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The New Standard for Generic Trademarks: Seattle's New Hotel Hotel

Seattle’s new Hotel Hotel. Catchy (though unprotectable) name.

Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood has new accommodations: Hotel Hotel.

It’s a cute name, if not downright fashionable.

The problem is that if it succeeds, anyone can copy it. That’s because the trademark is generic. (For those nonlawyers out there, a generic trademark denotes the category of good or service, rather than a particular source of goods or services within that category. For that reason, it can’t serve as a trademark or be protected as one, no matter how well known it gets. Think you could protect TELEVISION as a brand of TVs?)

I’ve looked for the generic BEER beer of my youth. Or, should I say, beer that I noticed at the supermarket when I was a kid. Generic beer that actually said BEER in black letters on the can. That’s always epitomized generic trademarks for me.

Until now.

I hope Hotel Hotel is great success. (So far, the reviews are good.) The downside is if it catches on, it’ll have imitators it can do nothing to stop.

Posted on November 1, 2011 by Registered CommenterMichael Atkins in , | Comments4 Comments

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Reader Comments (4)

Surely there's a difference between your examples? The name of an hotel usually includes the word "hotel", whereas the name of a brand of beer doesn't. The sign BEER for beer is 100 per cent non-distinctive, and HOTEL for an hotel likewise: but HOTEL HOTEL, though not a great trade mark if you're trying to protect it, has a certain amount of distinctiveness by virtue of the very unusual repetition.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Groves

Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I just should have waxed nostolgic about generic BEER beer, and left it at that.

You are right in that HOTEL HOTEL doesn't denote a category of goods or services the way "hotel" alone does, so the mark really isn't generic. It's just weak.
November 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterMichael Atkins
Actually there's some TTAB jurisprudence on repeated marks, and it is by no means consistent. Little Caesar's Pizza's famous mark PIZZA! PIZZA! achieved registration for pizza; but other marks consisting of a generic term repeated once or even twice did not. I've always felt that if you take the mark as a whole, a generic term ceases to be generic if it's repeated, because the repetition, as Peter suggests, creates a certain distinctiveness. I can see why the TTAB would be reluctant to declare such a rule, however.
November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBob Cumbow
Also, the Board found TIRES TIRES TIRES generic for a "retail tire store" in In re Tires, Tires, Tires, Inc., 94 U.S.P.Q.2d 1153 (T.T.A.B. 2009).
November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Hall

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